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Written by: Godfrey Reggio
Directed by: Godfrey Reggio
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 87
Date: 02/21/2014

Visitors (2014)

3 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Godfrey Reggio hit upon a neat idea with his debut film, Koyaanisqatsi (1982), named after the Hopi Indian word for "Life out of Balance." It was merely a collection of various shots, often sustained for some minutes, showing humans doing what they do, making what they make, accompanied by a kind of repetitious, chanting score by Philip Glass.

The movie was meditative, thought-provoking, boring, and irritating at the same time, though these reactions could arise at different moments upon a subsequent viewing. Reggio made two more thematically connected films, Powaqqatsi (1988), and Naqoyqatsi (2002), and cinematographer Ron Fricke continued the tradition with the similar Baraka (1992) and Samsara (2011). And now Reggio has returned with a new film, Visitors.

The black-and-white movie, which includes a new Glass score, begins with the image of a gorilla, staring intently at the audience, just as the audience stares at it. From this image alone, it almost looks as if Visitors is going to attempt something truly bold.

Much of the film gazes openly at faces, old and young, all shapes and sizes and colors. The subjects were apparently asked not to show any expression, or indeed, not to blink if they could help it. It's easy to get lost staring at these faces, wondering about who is behind them, or the very nature of a human face. But it's also easy to get antsy; why don't they blink for heaven's sake?

Another slow-motion shot shows a group of people in an audience. Their reactions are crazily different. Sometimes faces are rapt, laughing, shocked, or thrilled. Are they listening to a speaker? A band? Watching a movie? After several minutes, several people let out huge cheers, while one person shows a dejected face; it appears to be the audience at some kind of sporting event.

Reggio also shows images of dilapidated fun parks, stopped roller coasters, etc. His only clue to the connection between all this is the title. We're all just visitors to this planet, here for a short time. We do things together, and we try to have fun. But what else do we do? Do we truly connect with others? Do we hurt others? Do we hurt future generations?

The best thing that can be said about Visitors is that it allows viewers time to reflect on these and any number of questions. Some people may spend the time wondering what to have for lunch, but a few may be left pondering life itself.

The two-disc DVD/Blu-ray release from Cinedigm comes with two brief behind-the-scenes/making-of featurettes, that offer only the barest glimpses of the actual behind-the-scenes or making of the movie. We also get trailers, and individual interviews with Godfrey Reggio, Philip Glass, producer Jon Kane and Steven Soderbergh.

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